"The Paperboy"
"The Paperboy"
Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
Say what you want about Lee Daniels' extremely divisive (though mostly negatively received) "The Paperboy," but it's hard to believe anyone could come away from that film at least admiring what could very well be Nicole Kidman's funniest and sexiest performance ever (save maybe "To Die For"). As Charlotte Bless -- a Southern woman who spends her time writing correspondence to murderers in prison -- Kidman is a true revelation and most definitely deserving of a fourth Oscar nomination. If only to say give a nomination to a performance where urination plays a large part a year after giving two best supporting actress nominations to performances involving feces.

Melanie Lynskey, Hello I Must Be Going
Nearly twenty years ago, Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures" introduced the world to two promising young actresses: Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. While Winslet has clearly gone on to receive the better end of the stick, her co-star Lynskey has built an admirable career of character work in films like "Shattered Glass" and "Away We Go." And in this year's "Hello I Must Be Going," she nabs an admirable lead role as Amy, a recent divorcée who seeks refuge in the suburban Connecticut home of her parents. Part awkard and heartbreaking, part hilarious and charming, it's a career-defining performance for Lynskey.

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Some are suggesting Emmanuelle Riva has a very good chance at a best actress nomination for her stunning work in Michael Haneke's "Amour" (she definitely is the best bet on this list), but it's far from a sure thing. Foreign language performances are nominated few and far between, and Riva's fellow countrywoman Marion Cotillard is already a good bet for "Rust and Bone." But it would be a remarkable shame if the Academy overlooks the 85 year old French legend's unforgettable work as Anne, a retired music teacher who suffers a stroke. And it would additionally be a lovely way for the Academy to celebrate Riva's career, which began in 1959 with Alain Resnais's "Hiroshima Mon Amour."